The detective handling the case was a solemn young man who spoke perfect English. His name was Mohammed. He called me into his office and settled behind his desk. "What is your religion?" he asked immediately. "Christian." He wrote it down. "What is your tribe?" What could possibly be the right answer? "The Californians," I answered.
By the time the sun rose, we were driving atop a mile-high mesa covered with thickets of pine and rangy eucalyptus trees. The road descended from there, taking us down into the border town of Tunduma. There was a look of edgy intensity in the town's residents, a look that reminded me of Tijuana's frenzy.
We rented a Toyota four-wheel drive in Dar es Salaam from a sharp dressed man who called himself Kennedy, then drove west into the heart of Africa. It was my third day in Tanzania. I had run each morning in Dar es Salaam, through crowded streets that smelled of wood smoke and raw sewage, past tall Masai warriors dressed all in red and very far from their homes in Kenya . . .
It is the last Sunday morning in July. I arrived in Paris well past midnight, exhausted from the long drive. The Rue de Rivoli was a madhouse, thick with tourists and revelers. I checked in and walked around for an hour to find a meal, but nothing was open. After settling for peanuts and a cold Leffe at a bistro on the Rue de la Madeleine, I hit the sack. There was no thought of a wake-up call.
I don't know what triggered the memory, but the other day I was suddenly overcome with a wash of humiliation. Sometime in my early twenties, at that point in the wilderness years where I was so deep in the woods that I couldn't remember which way I came in and couldn't possibly see a way out, I decided that the most logical way to fix things was to . . . wait for it: join the French Foreign Legion.